After a long quiet spell without any strong solar storms, the sun unleashed a flare (M-class, which means moderate) and a fairly substantial coronal mass ejection on July 7. As seen in these four coronagraph images that span about three hours, a bright cloud of particles was blasted into space. Its source was the large sunspot at active region 898. These storms carry billions of tons of matter at millions of miles per hour. These coronal mass ejections clouds of energized particles may reach the Earth in two to three days, creating the possibility of some brilliant aurora displays further down from the North and South Polar regions than usual. Sometimes they can also create communication, navigation and satellite problems. However, in this case, due to its sharp angle off to the right, it is quite unlikely that we will experience any strong effects from this storm.
In coronagraph images, an occulting disk blocks out the sun and some of the area beyond it creating something like an artificial solar eclipse. The size of the sun is represented by the white circle.
Click on the image to open a larger version. Image Credit: NASA/ESA
+ NOAA Space Weather Report
+ Understanding Space Weather Effects
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center